Deja Vu- A Novella, страница 1
Deja Vu- A Novella
Deja Vu- A Novella
Copyright 2012 by Jennifer Perry
Diamond Eyes- A Novella
This book is fictional. Any resemblance between people living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The audience was filled with row upon row of smiling faces; proud moms, brimming with happiness for the phenomenal talents of their children; dads, clearly out of their elements, yet never failing to forget the perfunctory smiles and nods of encouragement necessary for the young performers.
Huddled in a far corner of the room, the police officers were not smiling. Why the police officers were there at all was something of a mystery. In the sleepy town of Maple Falls, the biggest crime in the last ten years had been the theft of the center plaza’s gigantic abstract art statue.
Good riddance, Naomi thought, shaking her head at the memory. The sculpture had been an awful combination of rusty garbage and chunks of gummy black tar. Likely the town’s posse of nosy old ladies had finally done away with the eyesore. It had always been an endless target for their never-ending complaints.
Before she could further pursue the mysterious presence of the police, Maple Fall’s tiny gymnasts skipped onto the stage. The crowd rose to their feet with a roar and gave the performers an ovation fit for a king. The kids shone with excitement. They had been waiting all year for this crowning achievement. Naomi had seen each of them happily trade enormous quantities of blood, sweat, and tears in order to create this night of stellar agility and grace.
A bittersweet rush of nostalgia swept through Naomi. Long ago, she'd been one of the ecstatic athletes on the gym floor. Since the age of six, gymnastics had been her only passion in life. When she was twenty-two, they offered her a spot on the United States Olympic Team. Naomi turned it down. Instead, she allowed her lofty aspirations to hit rock-bottom and returned to the tiny town of Maple Falls.
People can do a lot of foolish things when they think they're in love.
The kids quickly grew excited from the thunderous applause and began showing off in front of the audience. Normally, Naomi would have stopped this type of arrogant behavior, but she figured the kids had earned this moment of glory.
Watching the gymnast’s bodies contort through beautiful motions of the sport, Naomi was suddenly seized by confusion. The kids seemed to be making some sort of shape or pattern on the stage. But no, that was ridiculous. They were simply showing off, having fun.
The moment that followed was one that would forever change the course of her life. She reflected on it later, and wondered how such a short matter of seconds could alter so permanently every part of her existence. Like an unstoppable line of dominoes, the moment was the flick that set everything into motion.
Al stepped out from behind the curtain.
“Naomi!” he called.
Naomi’s body registered shock, then confusion. Why was Al on stage? And why was he calling her name? But before she could ponder the matter further, the events changed from being slightly strange to positively abnormal.
The policemen stood up in a single, fluid motion. There were at least ten, maybe fifteen of them. She hadn’t even known that Maple Falls employed that many policemen.
The policemen raced towards the stage, knocking over chairs and tables in their frantic haste. They reached Al in the matter of a few short seconds. Three of them wrestled him to the floor, clipping handcuffs around his unobjecting wrists. They performed a quick but thorough search of his clothing for…weapons? The idea seemed so preposterous that Naomi immediately rejected the possibility. Surely this was some kind of joke. Al had a strange sense of humor, but this was going too far.
Seemingly satisfied with the search, the three policemen rose, dragging Al roughly to his feet.
“You’re under arrest,” one of them loudly declared, “for the murder of Broc Avery Junior.”
The crowd gasped, and suddenly the room went deathly quiet. The silence was broken when several women screamed. Mrs. Abigail, one of Maple Falls’ cantankerous old ladies, actually fainted. The room erupted into pandemonium.
As the crowd around her erupted into chaos, Naomi remained rooted to the floor in disbelief. Not a single part of her believed what she was seeing; surely this was a nightmare, or some sort of horrid hallucination.
Eventually, she came to her senses enough to realize that Al and the policemen had left the room. Suddenly swallowed by panic, she bolted out the door in pursuit.
Naomi caught the last police car just as it was pulling away.
“Stop! Stop!” she cried, her voice so strained with panic and the beginnings of hyperventilation that she barely recognized it.
The police car, having barely even left the curb, rolled to a stop. The policeman leaned over to roll down the passenger window. Only in Maple Falls were the police cars so old that they lacked automatic windows.
“Can I help you, Ms. Zhu?” he asked politely.
Naomi vaguely recognized him as Mr. G, the policeman that had good-naturedly patrolled the tiny Maple Falls High School. He had so little action on the job that he was eventually forced to enter living hell and become a high school history teacher.
Naomi frantically tried to calm her breathing.
“I think you made a big mistake. You’ve just arrested my boyfriend for murder!”
At the police station, the story began to unfold. The police were excited to finally have a real case. As a result, their account of the murder came out as a long, garbled mess. Eventually, Naomi was able to piece the story together.
At 1:46 PM this afternoon, the serving staff of the Avery Manor heard horrible screams coming from the parlor. Upon further investigation, they discovered Broc Avery Jr. sprawled across the floor, a butcher knife protruding from his belly. Clearly, he was near death.
“Aaaawlllllonnnn,” he gurgled through the blood in his throat (though the police have jumbled stories, they all agreed on the use of “gurgled” when describing the murder). Then, Broc’s eyes slid shut and he crumpled the rest of the way to the ground. Seven long minutes later, long before the ambulance could arrive at the countryside mansion, Broc Avery’s pulse stopped.
Apparently this was followed by much wailing, until at last someone came to their senses enough to call the police.
Upon receiving the call, the police quickly began a forensic analysis of the site. The knife was tested for DNA and fingerprints. A few houses down, a bloodied shirt was uncovered from a trash bin. A single name, written on the shirt’s tag, revealed the prime murder suspect: Alan Richman.
At first, they’d had relatively little evidence on which to base Al’s arrest. But soon, results from the forensic analysis came in.
Testing revealed that the blood on the shirt was from Broc Avery, thereby linking the shirt to the crime. Foreign DNA on both the shirt and the knife proved to be identical. Furthermore, the foreign DNA belonged to Alan Richman. It seemed that the police had found their murderer.
As the proof kept building and building, Naomi felt the roots in her life decay, until she had no more perception of what was fake or real. She wandered aimlessly throughout her head, lost and confused.
The force of Broc’s sudden death slammed into her repeatedly like a heavy-duty bulldozer. She was falling off a cliff, and no one was waiting below to catch her. Broc had been so young and healthy: so vital and full of life. But in the blink of an eye, a heartbeat, he had left the world forever.
She couldn’t even register the shock, her body was so numb. Naomi deduced that she must be in denial. Naomi knew that he was dead, yet she couldn’t bring herself to accept it.
“He’d like to talk to you,” Mr. G told Naomi in a kindly voice. “Shall I take you in?”
Naomi’s first instinct was to say no. She never wanted to see Al again. She could accept a lot of things about a person, but being a murderer wasn’t one of them.
But… what it he wasn’t a murderer? What if he was innocent?
In context, the murder didn’t make sense at all. Al and Broc had been best friends since meeting in business school. They’d even started a now-prospering company together, named Averan Appliances. Sure, there had been rough spots in their friendship. But no one was perfect. There had certainly never been any problems bad enough to drive Al to murder.
So she would give Al a chance. One chance. And if he didn’t have one heck of a good argument to explain this fiasco, Naomi would chuck their relationship out the window without a second glance.
Mr. G cleared his throat gruffly.
“Right then. I’ll be, er, right over there,” he said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the door.
Naomi barely heard him, for she'd just spotted Al’s familiar ginger head, bobbing like candlelight while he paced back and forth across his dimly lit cell. As the door clanged shut behind them, Al looked up. Suddenly a radiant smile filled his freckled face.
Naomi wanted to run straight to him, burrow her head into his thick pale arms, and apologize a million times for ever doubting him, ever suspecting him. Of course Al was innocent. Al, who trapped spiders in upside-down cups in order to transport them carefully outside. Al, who showed such patience for the endless tiny gymnasts that rained a parade of chaos throughout their house. Al, the atheist who went along with the Zhu family’s crazy church-going habits; saying grace with the enthusiasm of a golden retriever playing fetch.
“Naomi!” Al called out jubilantly.
“Al!” Naomi called back with even more exuberance, racing towards his cell door. They desperately grasped hands through the bars, and then embraced fiercely, as if they had nothing between them at all.
“I’m innocent, Naomi,” Al murmured softly through the doors.
“What? I thought you would-”
“I did think you were guilty at first,” Naomi interrupted him, the confession pouring out of her mouth before she could stop it. “I didn't want to believe it, but the evidence just kept pouring in. Then, I realized that it didn't matter. My gut knew the truth all along.”
Al was silent for a long, immeasurable moment. Naomi began to grow uncomfortable.
“Al? Are you angry with me?” she asked tentatively. “I know that you have every right to be. I am so, so sorry.”
“Angry? No, of course I’m not angry. All the evidence points at me, no one can deny it. What I was trying to say-” Here Al paused again. This time, Naomi waited more patiently. Relief was easily tangible in her body. She stood quietly, busy drinking in the glorious sight of Al's messy orange freckles and disheveled red hair.
“What I was trying to say,” Al continued at last, “is how much I love you.”
Oh. Though he’d said it a thousand times, the words still made the breath catch in her throat and her heart flutter helter-skelter in her chest.
“How much do you love me?” Naomi asked, voice suddenly playful.
Al stretched his hands through the bars and lightly brushed his fingertips along Naomi’s cheeks. He cradled her face as if it were the most precious jewel in all the world.
“I love you so much that if we followed a rainbow to its end, we’d still be light-years away from the perimeter of our love. I love you so much that our love has no perimeters. I love you-”
“I love you more,” Naomi interrupted him. Lifting one of his hands from her face, she gently kissed each fingertip.
“Naomi, what are we going to do?” Al suddenly asked. His voice sounded strange with the absence of laughter.
“I’m going to prove your innocence,” Naomi said fiercely, with far more confidence than she felt. “Now Al, we have eight minutes. Tell me everything you can think of that might help your case.”
“I was at home all morning,” Al began without preamble, “I have no witnesses that can attest to my location since I was alone all morning. I did the usual things: watched football, brought in the milk, folded some laundry. I wish I sent some emails, because then we could have proof of my morning’s occupations. Unfortunately, I did nothing of the sort. I have no way to prove my whereabouts from any given time this morning.”
Naomi tried not to look stricken by the hopelessness of the situation.
“OK, let’s move on. Do you have any idea who framed you?” Naomi kept her voice calm and business-like, but inside her life was crumbling to pieces. What if she couldn’t prove Al’s innocence? Naomi couldn’t imagine a life without Al in it. Actually, she could imagine a life without him, but it wasn’t a very happy one.
“I have no idea,” Al muttered, shaking his head. Voice abruptly rising in excitement, Al exclaimed, “Wait! What about Brynn Avery?”
Naomi thought about it for a moment. Brynn Avery fit the crime perfectly. Naomi wondered why she hadn’t seen it earlier.
Brynn Avery was Broc’s exceedingly vain younger sister. Recently, she’d gotten out of a nasty divorce. Without her rich husband for monetary support, Brynn had reluctantly returned to her childhood home of Avery Manor.
As the oldest sibling, the luxurious mansion was Broc’s inheritance. Brynn had never bothered to hide her jealousy at Broc’s good fortune. Although she lived in the Manor purely out of Broc’s good will, she treated him like scum. Their neighbor, Mrs. Abigail, reported that she often heard Brynn screaming at him late into the night.
Yes indeed, Brynn possessed every motivation necessary to have committed the crime. Broc’s death would shift the Avery inheritance into her selfish hands. Furthermore, framing Al for Broc’s murder would easily move Brynn into manager’s position at Averan Appliances.
The likelihood of Brynn’s guilt seemed so high that Naomi unconsciously found herself relaxing. All she had to do now was tell the police about her suspicions and let them do the dirty work.
Upon ascending from the police station’s modern dungeon, Naomi was greeted by dimmed lights and heavy hush.
“Where did everyone go?” Naomi asked softly, unwilling to disturb the heavy weight of silence.
“It’s 5:00,” Mr. G announced, his hardy voice echoing across the empty walls, “the police station is closed.”
Naomi raised her eyebrows, hardly able to believe her ears. The Maple Falls Police Corp grew more laughable with every moment she spent here. She bet Maple Falls was the only town in a thousand miles with a police station that closed in time for dinner.
The closing time made sense, once Naomi thought about it. Maple Falls had no night life to think of, no possible outlets of crime. Of course, a policeman or policewoman was left on call at night, but besides that the police headquarters was left relatively unarmed.
Though it was a warm summer night, Naomi found herself shivering. An icy claw of fear dug its way under her skin, melting and trickling until it inhabited every pore of her body. The police schedule, which a moment ago had seemed so laughable, was suddenly a huge broach on the security of Maple Falls. There was a killer on the loose. Who knew when they would strike again.
The fear froze across her back and chained her forehead in sweat. Naomi started to shake.
“Are you all right?” Mr. G’s voice blared out of the silence.
Naomi nearly jumped a foot and a half into the air. She forced herself to calm down.
I’m being stupid she told herself over and over
“Mr. G,” Naomi addressed him, “if there are several suspects in a case, do you imprison them all until the trial?”
“Yes,” Mr. G replied absentmindedly, clearly not understanding where Naomi was headed.
“In concerns to this case, Brynn Avery also seems like a viable suspect.” Naomi tried to sound as convincing and professional as possible.
“Naomi-” Mr. G began to interrupt.
“No, let me finish!” Naomi said, speaking faster now. “If Brynn killed her brother, she would inherit the Avery Manor. Furthermore, by framing Al for the murderer she would ensure a promotion in Averan Appliances. She had every motivation necessary to have committed murder.”
“That’s solid reasoning,” Mr. G told her in a condoling tone, “but we have absolutely no evidence to support your theory. I’m sorry to say that the evidence points only to Al.”
“But what if you’re wrong?” Naomi asked, voice rising in desperation, “What if it wasn’t Al? What if it was someone else?”
“Naomi,” Mr. G said again, voice suddenly tired, “I know you are in denial right now, but sometime you’ll have to accept that Al is guilty. We have all the evidence necessary for him to be convicted.”
“Won’t you at least investigate other suspects?”
“In this case, no, we won’t. The trial is as good as closed. We’ll go through all the court proceedings of course, but in the end he’ll be convicted. Mark my words.”
“No,” Naomi’s eyes blazed, “he won’t.”
The apartment whispered of emptiness. Silence hung around the corners, draped like spider webs across all surfaces and hanging like smog in the air.
Naomi moved throughout the condo at a frantic pace; turning on every light, locking every window, and dead bolting every door. The experience was new to her, and oppressively demoralizing. Having lived in Maple Falls her entire life, this was the first time Naomi had truly worried about locking up.
After the entire house was secure and blazing with light, Naomi sank to the couch at last. Her body was still coated in the remnants of sweat, her limbs weighted with stress, her heart heavy with loneliness and worry.